Location: The town of Lindsayville, 500 miles from Lavernia
Year: 2913 AD
Hi, I'm Ellie Bishop. I'm just an average girl of Paxum, mixed race: half black, half Greek. Well, okay, not really average as such. You see, I'm not a Paxite. Mom and Dad and I moved here from Earth when I was 5, so I'm a Terran. It's really hard making friends or finding dates on Paxum, because though I'm the same age as everyone else in my senior class at high school (18), I'm already fully grown, while everyone else looks like preteens. So yeah, life has been difficult here. I do have friends, but it's kinda weird since I'm much more physically mature than they are.
It got even harder when my dad died four years ago. I miss him a lot. Luckily, he worked at the same place Mom does, and life is a lot easier, finance-wise, on Paxum than on Earth. But I'm still not completely over his death, especially since we moved here because the company he works for wanted him specifically. They wanted Mom, too, but Dad was even better at his job than Mom is.
Also, it's been ... interesting ... trying to get used to this world where gender is such a fluid thing among kids, and where adult/child romantic relationships are cool with most people. But I was so young when we moved here, I adapted to all that stuff. It's the physical differences that are the hardest to adapt to. I mean, by lucky coincidence I'm panchrono, AKA being attracted to people of all ages, even preteens, which helps on the dating thing, at least. But it would still be nice to have some Terran friends my own age.
Mom was hit by Dad's death even harder than me, and for three and a half years she didn't date at all. But then she met someone, someone she was keeping a bit of a secret for some reason. I mean, I knew she was going out and dating someone, she made no secret of that. And I knew the other person was a woman (my mom is bisexual), but beyond that I didn't know much. Mom never brought her over, never showed me a picture, never let me talk to the woman on the phone, and never took her Omnus calls around me.
I remember the day Mom first decided to let me meet her girlfriend of six months. I was back from school, watching the three-vee to unwind, my shoes and socks scattered around the room, my bare feet draped over one arm of the sofa, flipping channels looking for something watchable, when she came in from her bedroom. It was her day off, so I wasn't surprised by that. What did surprise me, though, was that she was wringing her hands and looking very nervous. I noticed, and flipped off the three-vee with the remote, sitting up.
"What's wrong, Mom?"
She sat down on the sofa next to me, resolutely putting her hands on her legs. "Nothing wrong, honey. Just ... I've decided to let you meet Zoe at last. But I have some things to tell you about her first, so you'll be prepared."
"Like what? Is she horribly disfigured?"
Mom laughed. "Oh, nothing like that, honey."
"Okay, I'm listening."
"Well ... for starters, she's not Terran."
"Seeing as there's only two other Terrans in town, and they're married to each other, I'd be surprised if she was Terran."
"Good. But there's more. She's ... she's not a Paxite, either. She's a Lucite."
"Oh, the sex-shifters? I think there's a Lucite girl in school. I've seen her in the halls. So you're dating her mom?"
"Um ... is that girl of Indian heritage, with black hair and almost-black eyes?"
I frowned a little in thought. "Yeah, I think so."
"Does she usually wear a sunflower hair-clip and denim overalls with short pants legs?"
"Uh ... I think the few times I've seen her, that's what she was wearing."
"Then no, I'm not dating her mother."
"But-" I started, but stopped myself short. There weren't any other Lucites in town. I didn't know the girl I'd been talking about well, but I was sure one of her parents presented as male. "I don't-"
"I'm not dating her mother. I'm dating her. The girl I described is Zoe."
My insides froze. I stared, open-mouthed, at Mom. I couldn't believe my ears. I mean, I'd lived here long enough I knew some paedos and panchronos, and most of them were great people, but I'd never seen any indication that my own mother was one of them, in 18 years of living with her. This ... this was a bombshell.
"I ... what? Hold on, I just ... I just need to think," I said, my head in my hands.
"Your, um ... your father never approved of such things, so he never knew. I guess I got so used to keeping it a secret that, well ... I never thought to tell you. I think a part of me still worries you'll ... you'll think me some kind of sicko."
I looked up at her. "Mom, I love you. I'll always love you. I don't think you're sick. I've lived here so long I don't even remember Earth, much. It's just ... I never had any idea."
This seemed to cheer her up, which I was glad for, but there was a part of me that wasn't happy. A part of me was angry, for no reason I could identify. Angry, and jealous. But why? I was panchrono myself, why should I-
"Mom, I ... I just realized I never told you, I'm panchrono. Are you panchrono, or just paedo? I know on places like Earth, closeted paedos will date and even marry adults to fit in. Anyway, I just wanted you to know I'm panchrono, so I don't think you're sick."
She smiled even more. "No, honey, I'm not an exclusive paedo; I'm panchrono, just like you. I guess it must run in the family."
We had a good laugh about that for a few minutes before she spoke again. "Listen, honey, how would you feel about me inviting Zoe over for dinner tomorrow so you two can meet each other, finally?"
I forced a smile. "Sure Mom, that sounds great."
"Good, I'll have her come over at 6pm, then, okay?"
"Cool," I said, with feigned enthusiasm.
With that settled, we chatted amicably for a while about this and that, but there was still a mysterious battle going on inside me. But I couldn't think about it yet. I set that aside til later, and so we had dinner and watched three-vee together until I decided to turn in, having very expertly hidden my feelings from Mom, since I needed to analyze them.
In my room, I lay down on the bed and finally got around to thinking through my feelings. Why was I jealous and angry? Was I jealous of Mom? I pondered that, but it didn't feel like that was it. Was the anger at being panchrono myself and not knowing Mom and I had that in common? I hadn't realized that part of my orientation until after Dad died, and he didn't like to talk about that kind of thing, so I didn't really have any issues there. Or did I? Well, maybe that was part of it. But what of the jealousy? If I wasn't jealous of Mom, why was I jealous?
Then it hit me. I wasn't jealous of Mom, I was jealous of this Zoe girl. I hadn't thought about it, but now I did, I got up and looked through some of my writings from the last few years. Looking through it, I saw finally a pattern I had completely missed that whole time. My writings were littered with poems, stories, and fantasies about an older woman I dubbed Katie, and our romantic and sexual relationship with each other. It wasn't until I read it over with the new realization in my mind that I noticed something in all these stories I'd never noticed before. Katie, with her long, curly brown hair, brown eyes, olive skin, strong chin, and athletic calves, looked exactly like my mother, who is of Greek heritage. Her personality was practically a perfect clone of Mom's, too. And what was more, Katie was a widow.
I fell back on the bed, trying to decide if I wanted to cry or laugh, and too stunned to do either. It took my mom dating a girl four years younger than me to finally figure out that I was in love with my own mother. And I might have realized my desire earlier if I'd known sooner that Mom was panchrono.
Yes, it wasn't the fact I was in love with my mother that bothered me, so much as the shitty way I figured it out; after all, incest is not taboo on Paxum. No, it was because I had to figure it out because the woman I loved was involved with someone else. Someone younger than me. And they'd been dating for six months already.
It was irrational, I know; jealousy isn't rational to begin with, and I only just now figured out I'd been fantasizing about my mother for years. It wasn't Zoe's fault! It wasn't even Mom's fault, given how she'd grown up and the man she'd married. I didn't blame her. I didn't want to be angry with Zoe, either, a girl I hadn't even properly met yet. But that didn't change the fact that I was angry, and very jealous. Not to mention frustrated, since I couldn't do anything about it. I'd barely even recognized my feelings, so I could scarcely go barging in to Mom's room and profess my undying love for her. I doubted it would do any good even if I did. What's more, I didn't want to ruin her happiness nor the presumed happiness of the Zoe girl. Mom had been sad for so long after Dad's death, I was glad that she was happy at last.
Not surprisingly, I cried myself to sleep, the tears muffled by my pillow.
I woke up the next day dreading the coming school day. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry all day. But instead, I got up, stood in front of the mirror, and forced myself to look normal. I think I mostly succeeded, but I may have looked a little wooden.
It was a real fight to have normal conversation at the breakfast table. I didn't want Mom to think that I'd lied to make her feel better, because I wasn't upset about what she would assume I was upset about. I think my drama club experience was paying off, because Mom didn't seem to sense anything was wrong.
At school, I looked all over, without going out of my way, to find Zoe, to look at her again, but I didn't see her until lunch time, when I saw her across the cafeteria. I didn't know how much Mom had told Zoe, so I didn't move to introduce myself. But when I finished up, I passed by her as closely as I could without appearing to be doing so, and got a good look at her. She was 14, but being a Lucite, looked about 11, by Terran standards, at the oldest. I wasn't entirely clear on when she would likely hit puberty, or the timetable of Lucite puberty.
The look I got of her didn't help me feel any better. Though she looked like a child still, she was prettier than me. Her dark skin was flawless, her brown eyes were large and wet and gorgeous, her hair was luscious, healthy, and elegantly coiffed. Her arms looked perfectly proportioned for her age, and her fingers were delicate and kissable. Also, she wore a beautiful red sari or sarong or whatever it's called, with gold trim; it hugged her form gracefully and sensuously, her slight, childish curves pleasing to the eye. I felt a tingling between my legs, looking at her. It just made me angrier. I hadn't been jealous of Mom before, but now in addition to being jealous of Zoe, I was now also jealous of Mom. They were both lovely, and now I wanted both of them. I had to fight the urge to scream. Instead, I just walked as quickly away as I could without drawing attention to myself.
For the rest of the school day, I was lost in thought, and I don't remember much of anything but alternating between fantasies of Zoe, my mom, and I in bed together, and fantasies of punching Zoe in her stupid, beautiful, smug face. Though I'd still not been properly introduced yet, and so didn't know her, I imagined her to be stuck-up, snotty, the kind of girl who is beautiful, knows it, and thinks it made her better than everyone else. I imagined her voice as being high-pitched and grating on the ears. I imagined her being rich and having a servant whose sole job was to wipe her ass for her, as ridiculous as that was on Paxum - the system on Paxum doesn't allow people to get that rich.
Then the thought crossed my mind that, being a Lucite, people might bully her for being different. That tiny compassionate thought was soon countered by the image of her becoming a bully herself so that nobody dared bully her; she certainly had the beauty to become a bullying prat of a girl. I liked this thought; it meant I was able to hate her again. I pictured her reducing a younger student to tears with a cutting verbal barrage, and me stepping in to defend the victim and punch Zoe in her beautiful face, marring its beauty with ugly black and blue marks, and blood.
Every time I would have those violent thoughts, though, I would feel bad and change the fantasy; Zoe would start crying, I would start crying with her, and we'd tearfully embrace. I'd forgive her, tell her I understood what it was like being an outsider, never really fitting in, and we'd end up kissing. But then Mom would discover us together, and be heartbroken, and I'd feel so bad about that, that I'd go back to imagining Zoe was a horrible excuse for a human being again.
As soon as Drama Club was over, I went home, torn between hurrying away and taking my time. I couldn't decide which was better, or what reasons went with each. Sometimes I wanted to take my time to avoid meeting Zoe, other times I wanted to be slow to give her and Mom time alone together. Then I would get angry about that, and hurry up to punch Zoe's lights out. Or did I hurry because I wanted to kiss Zoe before Mom could get home from work? I had a very hard time not crying.
When I got home, Mom was still not back yet. I went straight to my room, threw my things down, and threw myself onto my bed, where the furious confused battle continued to drag on. But in the privacy of my own room, I could now switch between crying into my pillow, and masturbating to various fantasies, only to scream into my pillow after I "came," my emotions a wilder mess than they'd ever been in my entire life, about anything. I even had a brief memory of a Terran boy I'd once loathed, who no longer lived in town. I pictured him blaming my emotions on my period, which was still two and a half weeks away, and then I wanted to find him and punch him in the face for something he hadn't even done.
When I finally got up off the bed and started to get dressed for dinner, I didn't know what to wear. It suddenly struck me that the girl, who almost always wore denim shortalls, had been wearing a fancy sari, which had to mean she was dressing nicely for the dinner where she would meet me for the first time. I didn't know what to think about this. On the one hand, it could be a sign of respect for her lover's daughter. But on the other hand, she could be dressing fancy to show off her wealth and how superior she was to me. I decided on the latter, so I could go back to hating her. I decided to one-up her by wearing my prom dress from last year to dinner.
I looked at the dress; it was blue and glittery with rhinestones, like a blue disco ball. But since I wasn't round like a disco ball, more like a disco ... cylinder? Hot dog? Whatever. The point is, it was beautiful. But then, I suddenly realized it was also a bit gaudy. It might look like I was trying too hard. So I put it back, and started trying on a whole bunch of other outfits.
I finally settled on this year's prom dress, which had been more subdued. It was also blue, but it had no sparkles at all. It was simple and elegant and fancy without being gaudy or ostentatious. It was perfect.
The front door opened just as I left my room, and Mom came into the house. She walked right by me, moving a lasagna from the fridge to the top of the oven while the oven preheated. She must have prepared it last night after I went to my room, and now it just needed to cook. Then she turned around, and froze in place, her mouth open in shock. Granted, I hadn't been able to do my hair, and I hadn't thought to change my makeup, but I must have looked pretty nice anyway.
"Wow," she finally managed to say. "You're looking amazing, Ellie honey. But, well, isn't it a bit much, considering the circumstances?" I was suddenly very glad I wasn't wearing the disco ball dress, if she thought that of this simple dress.
"Well," I said, deciding to go with partial honesty, "I happened to spot Zoe at school today, and she was wearing this lovely red and gold sari, so I figured I should try to look equally nice."
Mom chuckled warmly. "Ah yes, that does sound like Zoe, always wanting to make a good first impression. She wore that very sari to our first really romantic date. She wore a couple of others on other occasions, but I don't think she has more than a few really nice outfits. Anyway, yes, you made the right call, honey; I think she'll be pleased to know you put so much thought into this."
I wanted to scream and rage, but somehow I managed to just grimace. Mom was already turned around and putting the lasagna in the oven, though, so she didn't see my grimace. I went into the living room and sat uncomfortably on the sofa watching three-vee while I waited.
Zoe was five minutes early arriving, and the lasagna wasn't done yet anyway, so after Mom welcomed her in, she brought Zoe into the living room. I turned off the three-vee before she came in. Mom then introduced us.
"Zoe, this is my daughter, Ellinor Oshun Bishop, better known as Ellie. Ellie, this is Zoe Isabella Singh, my girlfriend."
She held out her hand to me with a beautiful, warm smile, and said, "Nice to meet you at last, Ellie. Your mom speaks very highly of you."
I lifted my arm and reluctantly took her hand. This girl was nice. Not a trace of snootiness on her face or in her voice. My resolve began to falter, and I began to wonder how I could have thought such horrible things about a girl who - despite being 14 years old - looked no older than 11. When I shook her hand, her smile widened, and it lit up her entire face, especially her eyes; dark as they were, the reflections in her eyes seemed more intense than the environment would suggest. Also, the skin of her hands was soft and felt great in my own.
Shortly after that, we went into the dining room, and mom served the lasagna.
"Now just a heads up, Ellie dear, but the lasagna is vegetarian."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"Well, Zoe and her family are Hindus, so cows are sacred to them. They can have milk products but not beef."
"Yes," Zoe said. "But I wouldn't want to eat meat anyway. As a Hindu, I could have fish, but I personally feel that fish have feelings too, so I don't eat any kind of animals. A lot of Hindus go full vegetarian. Anything that has feelings can suffer. There are other spiritual and karmic reasons as well."
"Well, it's been known since the 20th century that plants scream when you pick them or cook them, too," I said, wanting to pick a fight with this girl.
She shrugged. "Yes, but we have to eat something. The Jains, of course, won't eat anything but fruit that falls off the tree on its own, but that's too much work for me. Maybe it means I am weak, but I pray for my food's spirits in apology for my weakness." She bowed her head, looking sad, and I suddenly felt like a heel. That feeling was quickly countered by some part of me deciding she was emotionally manipulating me, though. Still, I backed off.
"Fair enough. It's not like I have any room to preach, seeing as I eat meat. Mostly lab-grown meat, though, right Mom?"
"Yes. You know, I've always wondered about that, Zoe my love; what does your religion say about lab-grown meat?"
"Well, there's a lot of debate there. Most Hindus just avoid it anyway, on the grounds that the meat was grown from tissue taken from living animals, and therefore has the same spirit of the animal living on inside it, and thus the same suffering. But others are more liberal and consider it fine. Me, I just avoid it. My parents do too, for beef anyway. Fish and chicken and other meats allowed by our religion, however, they do go with lab-grown."
She did indeed pray before eating, something in Hindi, but did not provide a translation.
We continued to eat and talk, talking about this and that; and as the conversation continued, my feelings became more and more conflicted. It was chaos in my head. I wanted to hate this girl, but she was proving more and more to be sweet, kind, thoughtful, and warm. She was also friendly and showed an active interest in me, and wasn't off-put by my less than warm feelings for her. So the tenacity to which I clung to my dislike of her became more and more desperate the longer we talked.
My resolve began to falter, though, more and more. Between the erosion of the poorly-built castle of hatred I had built for this girl, and my attraction to her - which was growing, I was talking less and fighting to control my expression more and more. Mom and Zoe even began to notice. It was Zoe who said something about it first, though, oddly enough.
"Are you alright? You look upset," she said, her expression falling. "I ... I hope I haven't said anything to offend you." Her head bowed down to stare at her plate as she said this, and it was this heartbreaking display of genuine self-disappointment that made the castle of hatred go tumbling down into the ocean below. That is to say, I broke down crying at the table. Which, yes, didn't help Zoe's mood; naturally, after a brief glance up at me in shock and dismay, she began to cry, too. And Mom just sat there, staring, her fork halfway to her mouth, where she looked utterly bewildered and unsure what to do or say.
I saved her the necessity by going up to Zoe and hugging her. Between sobs, I tried, brokenly, to explain I wasn't upset at her, but at myself. I could barely understand my own words, though, so I don't know how well she understood me. But lots of words came out, about my feelings for my mother, about how I'd only put the truth together last night, about how beautiful Zoe was and how lucky Mom was to be dating someone so beautiful and sweet and kind. It all tumbled out, like occasional solid bits of detritus in a flash flood of emotion. Then, when I ran out of words, I just kept crying. Crying, because I had ruined this lovely meal with my mixed up feelings, and crying because I really hoped I hadn't ruined things between Mom and Zoe, because they both deserved to be happy.
At some point, I noticed vaguely that Zoe and I were on the floor. I didn't remember how we got there. We cried there together for so long, I honestly have no idea how long it was. But then, I noticed something else; Mom was holding both of us in her arms. I didn't remember when she'd done that, either.
Finally, we both ran out of tears, and even ran out of sniffs and dry sobs. When this happened, we sat up and looked at each other. Then I looked at Mom.
"How ... how much," I tried to ask her.
"How much of what you said did I understand?" she said with an understanding smile. "Enough. Oh, my poor baby, I had no idea. But then, it sounds like neither did you."
There were so many things I wanted to say, to ask her. I couldn't decide if I wanted to ask her if there was any chance of it happening, or apologize for being such a disgusting human being. Yeah, there was no incest taboo on Paxum, but Mom had been raised on Earth, so there was no telling what her feelings about that would be.
As it turned out, I didn't need to ask. Mom continued speaking about it on her own. "Anyway, dear ... you know, I've never thought about you that way before, as far as I know of. But you didn't hate me for being panchrono, so I can assure you that your feelings for me don't disgust me or make me love you any less. To be honest, before I moved here, I never would have considered dating a minor, despite my feelings for them. The same may be true of my feelings about dating my own daughter, too; but I would need time to figure that out.
"Anyway, dear, the point is that I love you still. And I can appreciate the situation you're in, even if I can't really understand it, having never been in that situation myself. But yes, honey, I still love you. I could never stop loving you, Ellie dear."
I sniffed again. "Sorry for ruining dinner," I told them both.
"Nonsense. Don't you worry about a thing, honey. Emotions are hard to control. Things happen, so don't worry about it."
Zoe grinned at us sheepishly and said, "And hey, we're all down on the floor, hugging!"
"That we are, my love, that we are," Mom said, and hugged us both even tighter, which admittedly made both of us giggle.
I'm sure if this were some erotica rather than real life, we would have had a threesome that very night, but we didn't. We hung out after dinner, and I managed to start taking the same sort of active interest in Zoe that she'd taken in me, which was a start. But aside from Mom letting me cuddle up next to her on the sofa after Zoe left, the rest of the night was fairly normal.
I felt silly, later, for the things I'd thought about Zoe before properly meeting her. Of course Mom wouldn't date someone snooty or superior. She detested that kind of person as much as I did, if not more! I don't know how I could have fooled myself as long as I did.
Over the course of the next few days, Zoe and I became good friends at school, whenever we could spend time together there, and she became a frequent after-school visitor at our house, to see both of us. One afternoon when Mom kissed Zoe on the lips, Zoe looked very embarrassed, and said she didn't want to do anything to upset me. I reassurred her that I was fine with them being kissy, and I really was. Yeah, I had the hots for my mom, but her happiness was more important to me than my desire for her.
It wasn't until a week had passed when I began to notice a pattern from my mom. She was looking at me more often, especially when she thought I couldn't see what she was up to. After a week of witnessing this, I finally realized she was checking me out. Whether or not she'd ever thought of me in that way before, she seemed to be pondering the notion now. Especially since some of the more notable instances were when I was going from the shower to my bedroom wearing nothing but a towel. After putting things together, the next time I took a shower I made sure to hold it a little more loosely, just to test my theory. Mom was drinking some tea, and when one side of the towel slipped and showed a little boob, she nearly choked on her tea. I was hard pressed not to giggle.
Still, though, I was unsure of myself. If she was interested in me that way, that didn't change the fact she was already dating someone; someone who was fast becoming my best friend. For, aside from being a sweet girl, Zoe and I also have a lot in common. We like the same music, we read a lot of the same authors, we like most of the same school subjects, and many other things besides. A lot of these things were things we both had in common with Mom, which helped me understand their relationship a lot more.
As much as it pained me to talk about it with Zoe, she really was the only person I had to talk about such things with, so the next day I brought it up, carefully. We had just been laughing about something on the three-vee; Mom was still at work. The commercials came on and so I muted the three-vee and turned to Zoe.